This first post on my new blog will hopefully provide you with an idea of who I am and the journey I am on. To read my welcome or introduction to Reflections, click Welcome to Reflections.

Grieving the death of my husband Bill was, in the first two years, mostly about gut wrenching pain; tears; feeling lost, alone and confused. I fumbled about; missed him and our life; grieved all he lost; and lived in a fog of sorts. I was overdoing and under doing and more. However, as I look back now, those years were also about insights, learning, growth, and incredibly compassionate wounded healers who know grief well. These people, strangers for the most part but now friends, came into my life, heard me, helped me and still support me as I walk my journey through pain. Wounded healers are real people; people unafraid of pain, tears, loss, death and grief. Many of them are deeply involved in changing attitudes and knowledge about loss, death and grief as we relate to it (or not) in our culture. These years taught me how poorly we as a society understand and deal with grief. Many, too many, do not know how to reach out to someone in the throes of grief's agony. Instead some disappear quickly following a death. Others try and want so much to help, but just do not know what to say. It is that lesson that drives my passion to assist those who grieve and to help change the way our death phobic society deals with loss, end of life issues, death and grief.
I am launching this website on the fourth anniversary of Bill's death. It seems impossible that it has been four years since I felt his final heart beat beneath my hand...his final exhalation on my cheek. It also feels like a century ago since I have seen him, hugged him and heard his wonderful voice. Bill was my husband, best friend, soulmate, and colleague. We fit hand in glove. He was a clinical psychologist with a long history of clinical work and always a waiting list. We practiced together for many years. Losing him, as every one who has lost a spouse knows, meant losing a part of me. It meant losing our lifestyle, my co-worker, and well...our normal.
Grieving a significant loss is not a straight line...far from it. There are no stages of grief. It is like a tangled mass of strings, ribbons, and yarn, all with many knots. The journey is filled with twists and turns, ups and downs and it takes longer to heal and learn how to live with loss than our society comprehends or wants to allow. I once likened it to walking the singular path on a labyrinth and there is validity to that analogy but "tangled ball of string, ribbon, and yarn with many knots" says it well also. Healing grief is a journey and only those who have truly walked through the heart of a significant loss, feeling its pain, can possibly comprehend it. I knew loss well before Bill died but losing my beloved spouse is, as C.S. Lewis said so well, "like an amputation." It is life changing and affects every aspect of life. It is shocking, confusing and lonely. In addition to the pain, sadness and loss of so much, there is the added challenge of figuring out a new normal, a new life with purpose and meaning. I am still learning how to carry grief, integrate it into my days and soul and ultimately grow from it. It all takes time, energy, presence, hope, and support.
So few understand the grieving process because we live in a society where we learn to hide our pain. The risk of vulnerability is just too big. That was a lesson I learned early on. But that was just one of many lessons. I had no idea when Bill died what kind of roller coaster ride I was in for. I did not know grief acted like a powerful tsunami that would toss me out to a sea of sorrow and a darkness I never experienced before. Smaller waves of grief were also new to me. These waves come in suddenly some knocking me off my feet while others moved past me rather gently. I have seen grieving clients in my office for many years sobbing their hearts out, wailing at times. I have held them in my arms, almost holding them together. In spite of that and the many losses in my own personal life, I still did not really know the pain of losing a spouse. How could I? It took losing Bill to drive that home. I say that with sadness and humility. I did not know then, but I do know now and I will spend my life helping those who are in the throes of grief and educating people as best and as gently as  I can.
So where am I now? Four years later I am very far from where I thought  I "should"  or would be by now but I let go of all those ridiculous "shoulds" and allow the journey to unravel itself and take me where it will. Do I "still" cry? Almost every day something trips off pain and/or tears. I am still fragile and hypersensitive to the smallest things. It can be putting Bill's favorite coffee mug in the cupboard on a certain day that trips off a moment of sadness and yes, gratitude for all we shared. It can be huge like holidays, the anniversary of his death, his birthday or even something small that just hits hard out of nowhere...a grief trigger if you will, that causes one of those tsunamis of grief. It can be something someone says with no intention to hurt me....sometimes it is some word or something I catch in a glance out of the corner of my eye. I remember seeing an RV drive past our house early on. It was identical to the one we drove all over North America for two years. I wept buckets that day.

Do I miss him? More now than early on. At first I was in such pain and a fog descended upon me and my life, protecting me for many months. Waking up out of the fog close to the first anniversary resulted in an onslaught of pain that I was not sure I could take, exhausted as I was from the journey. The awareness of secondary losses also grew. Now the pain, most but not all days, sits rather quietly in the back of my heart. I am always aware of it. Always. Even when it appears that I am not. It is a part of me and of my life. Ever present as are the joyous thoughts of Bill and our life. It is my teacher. It has helped me to be more compassionate, more understanding, more grateful, more aware, more present. It is, above all, a sign of the deep love Bill and I shared for so many years.
Does it get easier? Well, yes, in some ways, I guess 'easier' is as good a word as any. I know now when I hit rock bottom, I will come back up. I know pain will not destroy me. I know pain will come and knowing pain makes it easier to deal with it. The gut wrenching pain I felt constantly during the early months can still engulf me and can hit out of nowhere.  But it is not constant anymore. I know it lurks around the corner and can hit me at any given moment. I am incredibly aware of pain and grief as well as I am aware of joy and gratitude. It also gets more difficult in some ways. Not too long after Bill died, I realized the world was going on with life while I was frozen in time. It was not long before my loss was never mentioned by anyone unless I brought it up and like most grieving souls, I hesitated to do that unless I felt safe with the person, i.e. I was certain that I would get an appropriate response. Those folks are rare but I am blessed with some in my life. This path is lonely. The Grief Healing Discussion Group where I am now a moderator/counselor provided the greatest amount of comfort and insight.
I begin year five today, March 27, 2014 at 10:46 a.m. It is sort of my New Year's Day now. I have no idea what the year will bring. But does anyone know what a year will bring? I do know that when it is over, I will look back and know that I "still" miss Bill; that I "still" have tough moments or days. In the end, I am very  alone in spite of good friends and family; and I am deeply aware of the existential "aloneness" we all live with but which got masked when I shared life so intimately with a loving and kind spouse who cherishes me. I will help those new to grief or who are dealing with an old loss that they tried so hard to bury. Reading and learning more about loss, grief and healing has become a passion as is sharing what I learn in hopes of being a change agent in the way individuals and our society avoids sadness, loss, death, and grief.  Making art, playing with our dog Bentley, sharing time with friends who are real occupies my days as does meditation,  spirituality and nature. I listen to my own voice and do not really care what others think I should or should not be feeling or doing. I will continue to heal and trust myself in my process.
Are you grieving a loss?
What tools are you using to heal that loss?
The only way through grief is through the pain.

Cataloged: general grief, Bill, grief triggers

 


Comments

Anne Gorman
03/27/2014 8:37am

Congratulations on the beginning of your new website, Mary. I know you will be of help to many who come here.
I like the design and organization of the pages.

Reply
03/27/2014 9:07am

Thank you so much. It is a work in progress but well underway...
Mary

Reply
03/27/2014 8:51am

Mary, this is a wonderful new venture. I wish you well in helping others as you continue to help me. Jan

Reply
03/27/2014 9:08am

Thank you, Jan. As I said to Anne, it is a work in progress and it is fun. Thanks for checking it out.
Peace,
Mary

Reply
03/28/2014 10:31am

Dear Mary,
How beautiful and fitting that you have launched this caring site in Bill's memory. I think I will always carry the image of the two of you radiant with love and joy beneath the Gandhi memorial in London. Congratulations, and thank you for opening your compassionate, loving and wise heart to the world. Your wisdom is a gift to us all.
Thank you.
ilo

Reply
03/28/2014 2:50pm

Thank you, ilo. I remember sitting beneath that sculpture as if it were yesterday but it was 1985...almost 30 years ago. We were still sitting like that many years later. Thank you for your kind comments.
Mary

Reply
03/31/2014 2:02pm

Apt title and beautiful beginning. I resonate with your observations, including gone just yesterday and centuries ago. I have always been drawn to the archetype of the Wounded Healer and the mythological figure Chiron.
I try many tools. In the beginning, best for me was walking in my woods, writing, painting (poorly), and seeing a therapist one-on-one. In time grief support groups felt right. And always those few close friends and family who were there during crisis times and stayed and remembered. And the study of mythology where death is so often the issue.
I look forward to what happens next on your site.
Go, Mary!

Reply
03/31/2014 2:47pm

Dear Dear Elaine, Yes, wounded healers....we are. And it is our wounds, of course, that allow us to assist and be there for others. I so missed our woods when Bill died. So healing but like you writing, painting and seeing a therapist (1 on 1) also were tools I used. I also participated in a Hospice spousal loss group. Friends were key. Thank you, Elaine.
Peace,
Mary

Reply
iloilo
03/31/2014 2:15pm

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